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Niche Topics (Pregnancy and Kids) is all about practical parenting advice and parenting
skills to help you deal with common parenting challenges from toddlerhood to teen
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What would you suggest to get kids to try new foods? I have a 2½ year old toddler
who is a super picky eater. He will not eat any meat other than chicken nuggets and
refuses to eat new foods that I offer. I tried giving him pork, beef and fish but
no matter how well I prepare or hide them in his favorite foods, I still cannot get
him to eat meat. This totally stresses me out and I am really desperate to get my
son to eat new foods and vegetables I put in front of him. Any ideas? Thanks! – Rae,
I had the same problem with my daughter when she was little. Her picky eating habits
drove me crazy; she would only eat vegetables that are red and purple and insisted
on having the exact same food – cheese on bread – every day at every meal!
As you can see, the fear of new food and reluctant to eat what is being served (known
as food jag, a term to describe fussy eaters) is a very common childhood eating behavior
in toddlers. So, don't tear your hair out over this. Give your child some time, he'll
probably outgrow his picking eating phase and start trying new foods and vegetables
on his own.
What to Do When Your Picky Eater (Toddler) Won't Eat New Foods
1. I suggest you continue to offer his preferred food along with small servings of
new food on every other day, but not every single day. For example, you can mix a
variety of pureed vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, peas, etc) into ground
chicken meat and shape into burger patties, fingers, or balls. By doing so, you introduce
new foods into your toddler's diet without him realizing it.
To get your child to try other types of meat, you might also want to swap ground
chicken for ground turkey or lean ground pork.
2. We know from experience that toddlers love playing with shapes and colors so my
suggestion is change at least one sensory property of the food in order to make mealtimes
fun and new foods inviting.
Be creative and combine foods with different shape, color, taste, texture and temperature
on the same plate. You can use cookie cutters to cut foods into fancy shapes – stars,
diamonds, crescents, teddy bears, ducklings – to appeal to fussy eaters.
If your toddler won't eat veggies, then arrange vegetables creatively and make cute
smiley faces with his food. Use cucumbers and olives for eyes, sugar snap peas for
eyebrows, tomato for lips, capsicum for ears, and lettuce for hair. Alternatively,
try using your tot's own toy plates when dishing out a new vegetable or food.
When my daughter refused to eat mashed cauliflower every time I served it, I mixed
a few drops of natural food dye (from red cabbage) to change the color and she ate
everything on the plate. No complaints, no whining, no screaming. It was like magic!
You can change the texture of food with various cooking methods. For example, make
hard-boiled eggs instead of scrambled eggs. Cook carrots or celery instead of serving
them raw since they're usually sweeter and softer when cooked. If your toddler won't
eat meat because it 's too hard to chew, then I suggest you make stews with shredded
Changing the temperature and taste of food can be a little tricky so you need to
experiment with different spices and herbs to see what your kid likes and work from
there. Some spices such as ginger, cloves, chili powder, and hot peppers can irritate
stomach. Too much cold foods may cause abdominal upsets in children so be warned.
3. Young children usually learn from examples they witness, particularly from those
who are about the same age. Next time when your tot is being picky and not too willing
to try anything new, I suggest you invite your neighbor's kids over for lunch one
afternoon and let your kid watch with amazement as they chomp down on healthy foods
4. If your toddler is only taking only one or two bites at every meal, don't panic.
Simply make sure that every one of those tiny bites rank high on the nutrition scale.
For example, you can add a mashed banana to peanut butter sandwich for fiber. Sprinkle
a bit of cheese over his favorite foods for calcium, or flaxseeds for omega-3 fatty
acids if your toddler just won't eat fish.
If you are worried about your kid not getting enough protein and zinc, you might
want to give him other foods such as dairy products, nuts and beans. Non meat sources
of iron (non-haem iron) can be found in soy products, leafy green vegetables (broccoli
and bok choy), raisins and some breakfast cereals. Take note that non-haem iron is
not as easily absorbed by the body as heme iron, which is found in meat, poultry
I suggest you talk to a pediatrician and ask about multivitamin supplements for kids
to ensure your child receives the optimal amount of essential nutrients that support
overall mental and physical development.
5. Getting kids to eat vegetables is really challenging for most parents but you
can encourage your toddler to eat veggies by letting him decide and pick a color
that appeals to him for one meal or snack.
For example, feed him spinach, green beans, zucchini or avocados if green is the
color of the day. If he likes yellow, offer bananas, squash and pears. For red, serve
apples, strawberries, raspberries, cherries or watermelon, or tomatoes,
If your child won't drink milk no matter what you do, use these ideas to encourage
milk consumption and ensure adequate calcium intake. Learn what are good non-milk
calcium food sources to offer, if your kids simply hate milk.